Timo Luege recently shared the new social media staff guidelines created at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).  Creating staff guidelines specific to online or social media use in organizations has been a hot topic for the last year or so and many organizations rely on examples of what other organizations or companies have created as a starting place for making their own.  The “nptech” (or nonprofit technology) community is one of the best networks when it comes to sharing ideas and case studies, so here’s another example to add to the lot!

>> Review the IFRC Social Media Staff Guides here.

Why create social media staff guidelines?

For starters, creating explicit guidelines for social media use will ensure that everyone in the organization is aware of what is and isn’t “okay” and feel more secure in their activities knowing what they are responsible for, etc.  It also creates an opportunity for people to be encouraged to use social media if they aren’t already!  Here’s how Timo explains this:

For the first time the IFRC is encouraging staff who are not professional communicators to actively and publicly talk about the organization and their work. The guidelines create clarity and reduce the risk of arbitrary repercussions – it’s definitely harder to shut someone up now than it was before.  On the other hand the guidelines also make clear what is unacceptable from an organizational point of view and that you might have to answer for what you write online.

Highlights from IFRC Social Media Staff Guides

What I like best about the IFRC Guidelines is that they start with best practices!  Things to remember about using social media, especially on behalf of an organization, to make the experience positive for the users (in and out of the org) as well as for the organizaiton’s image.  Some of the best practices I like best include:

  • Be passionate
  • Use a disclaimer
  • Add value
  • Be the first to admit a mistake
  • Protect your own privacy
  • Spread the word and connect with your colleagues

Lastly, the IFRC Guides also include an appendix of all the organization’s profiles and online spaces!  A great way to be sure everyone can find, promote, and access the organization in various places online.

If you’re looking for an example of social media guidelines for your organization, the IFRC Social Media Staff Guides are a great resource and example.  You can download them here (PDF at bottom of page).

What do you think?

Has your organization created social media guidelines or terms of use? What was the hardest part of creating them?  What was easiest?  How have they been put to use?

Social Media Staff Guides: Another Example
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  • Thanks, Amy! I’m really glad you like them and found them useful. We also have a “social media toolkit” – but since I’m not the principal author (I just edited it) I have some convincing to do before I can share it with everyone.

    • Thanks, Timo, for sharing the guidelines! I think, as you said in your post of the guidelines, most organizations use examples from others to develop their own, so continued sharing seems appropriate.

      Would love to see the social media toolkit once it’s approved for public dissemination 🙂

  • I’m pondering this issue, and simply trying to evaluate the implications of implementing social media guidelines…

    Before looking at how to make a Guide for Social Media use, I’m going to an issue that is one step back: Are Social Media Guidelines a good thing for an organization to have? If so, for whom, and why? If not, for whom, and why not? Qui bono? Why would you want to adopt them in your organization, or why would you NOT want to adopt them?

    I can see why an organization would want guidelines for representatives of the company, but then I’m conflicted about how that would affect an employee who would like to use social media to discuss things that AREN’T going so well with the company. (Yes, the “fired over FB comments situations” are relevant here). Would guidelines somehow suppress potential organizational whistle-blowers who use social media as their whistle? (Is social media the appropriate place to blow the whistle?)

    I suppose my main reason for asking these questions is to get at a curiosity I have about this topic: Do social media guidelines somehow compromise what social media is (or is supposed to be) all about? Is this an attempt to manage a communication channel that is (or should be) inherently unmanageable? I understand these questions rely on the definition of what social media is all about, and I understand that this very definition of social media–by virtue of involving active and dynamic human will–is always open to change. But, you’ve got me thinking…

  • The way I looked at it was:

    1. People are using social media
    -> people will talk about work using social media
    2. From a communications point of view this can be desirable.

    Therefore: Let’s assist them in using social media in such a way that it benefits both the organization (competent people reflect positively on the organization) and the employees (by providing guidance that emphasizes that is ok for them to communicate and that they have no repercussions to fear).

    I agree that you cannot *control* social media use. But I think you can *manage* it to a certain degree. If you see “management” as a form of “steering”.

    At the same time I think organizations need guidelines and assist their staff exactly because the channel cannot be controlled. The fact that you can’t control the sea doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn how to swim, either. And if your company is at sea then it’s probably a good idea to offer swimming lessons to all staff.

  • Thanks for your response Timo. Your perspective makes sense. What I get from what you are saying is that it is NOT a control issue, but more of an “assistive”/guidelines idea to point employees in the right direction with social media. Such guidance can be easily framed–as you allude to–as a benefit for the organization from a PR standpoint, and for the employee as a “please-use-this-wisely-and-in-a-way-that-will-be-most-beneficial-to-you” (i.e., won’t get you fired)standpoint.

    When a social media guide has been developed, the next step is considering how to best implement it into an organization. As I was thinking more about your reply and your general “assistive” tone, it seemed that an “assistive”/guidelines approach would make it easier to implement social media standards within an organization. Instead of another “you have to do it this way” document, the “guidelines” approach (as a metaphor) implies that there are boundaries, but that reasonable flexibility also exists within those boundaries, wherein employees can be trusted to use their good judgment. I like that approach, and it squares nicely with how I think the internet in general is considered–there are boundaries around what is appropriate or not on the internet (e.g., hacking into bank accounts, mistreatment of minors), but you have a lot of flexibility within those boundaries.

    As a result of your post, last week I proposed the idea of a social media guideline in my organization. I’ll be interested to see how it plays out. Thanks for bringing the topic up.